“Miss, you have ten seconds to get your shit together. We’re evacuating this building.”
I looked up at the man outfitted in digital camo, wielding an AR-15 with an odd-looking scope on it.
“It’s a TrackingPoint precision-guided smart weapon.” He said when he noticed me staring at his weapon. “You’re outta time, let’s go.”
As we ran for the exit, I pondered aloud. “What the hell’s a precision-guided smart weapon?”
I must’ve said it too loud because he responded. “I can tap the smart trigger and the scope paints the target. When the shot is perfect, the weapon fires automatically.”
“Bad ass,” I said in wonderment.
“Bad ass,” he declared.
As we cleared the perimeter around the building, the soldier spoke into a microphone. “Unit seven-foxtrot clear.” Time seemed to stretch. The building appeared to vibrate and suddenly it was gone. I suppose my brain couldn’t comprehend what my eyes were seeing, so it interpreted it as vibrating. I admittedly wasn’t an expert in quantum demolition. I suppose they could’ve waited, the building was liable to fall anyway. All that was left was a small cloud of dust. It moved rapidly over the landscape, raining down on the parched earth. The spoiled land was a maze of cracks that ran up to the sea, if there’d been a sea. I’d not seen a body of water and my grandmother had not as well.
* * *
I trudged home. Home was what I called it. I’d heard stories about what a proper home was. Mine certainly wasn’t. I thought as I pulled back my “door.” I had to be careful to not touch the rust. I’d heard rust carried diseases. As I pulled back the corrugated metal, I heard the tell-tale sound of a shotgun cock.
“Vanessa, it’s me,” I called out.
“Sandra? What are you doing here this early?”
She put the shotgun down and I walked to her wheel chair and kissed her. I smiled and whispered, “Shouldn’t my wife have dinner waiting for me?”
She stuck her tongue out at me before replying, “By that same logic, you’d need to cook for me.”
I laughed and rummaged in our supplies for a meal, ready to eat.
“Ugh!” I lamented, “Beef Stroganoff.”
Vanessa groaned. “I wonder what beef actually tastes like.”
My retort was interrupted by a knock on the door. Vanessa picked up the shotgun and nodded. I opened the door and saw a man dressed in an expensive suit.
“Ma’am.” He looked over me and spoke to Vanessa. “Vanessa?”
Vanessa replied by cocking the shotgun. He held his hands up. “Can I come in?”
“I have nothing to say to you,” she sneered.
“Look, I’ve never agreed with what happened to you.”
I’d seen this argument before. Vanessa’s brother came around every few years. He wasn’t openly hostile like so many, but her stigma affected him nonetheless.
Vanessa laughed. “You chose to stay with mother and father.”
“That doesn’t matter any more. Mother and father died in a terrorist event.”
Her brother licked his lips and continued. “You’re the elder child, the magistrate needs you to sign off on their estate.
“I bet he does.”
Her brother looked at me and knelt beside her. “If you’d just be like everyone else, I’m sure your part of the estate wouldn’t be forfeited.”
“Get out of my house!” She screamed.
“This isn’t even a house!” He retorted. “You don’t have to live this way!”
Vanessa spat at him. “If only I deny who I am. That’s what you believe.”
Her brother stormed out and fixed me an icy stare. “I hope you’re happy together.”
* * *
“We could at least see the magistrate.”
Vanessa stared at me. “You of all people?” She asked incredulously.
I spread my hands. “People don’t know about me. With you it’s obvious.”
She looked away, but I continued. “I love you the way you are…”
“But?” Her eyes were cold.
“But nothing!” I cried out. “Maybe the magistrate can be bought. We wouldn’t be the first ones…”
Vanessa sighed. “Fine! We’ll see the magistrate, but I’ll not change who I am for anyone.” Her eyes teared up. “I thought you’d understand.”
I rushed to her and caressed her cheek. “I know discrimination, just as you do.”
She patted my hand. “We’ll see the magistrate tomorrow.”
* * *
“Vanessa.” The magistrate shook her hand first, and mine afterward.
“Am I correct in assuming there are no recording devices here?” Vanessa asked.
The magistrate patted a device on his desk.
Vanessa nodded. “I’ll consider signing off on the estate, but…”
The magistrate looked first to me then to Vanessa. “The stigma?”
“There are…” he looked at us again. “steps that can be taken.”
“And we can live our lives as we wish?”
The magistrate leaned forward. “Your estate has enough capital, you could do almost anything.”
I looked to Vanessa and she nodded. I rolled up my sleeve to reveal my mangled arm.
“You too?” The magistrate’s eyes went wide. “I don’t mean to judge, but…”
“Then don’t.” I replied. “Vanessa and I will not have our deformities corrected. We were both born this way, as God intended.”
The magistrate gathered forms on his desk. “You realize a significant portion of your estate will be dedicated to hiding your, ah, disfigurement?”
“You and your wife will need to be ever vigilant.”
We both nodded.
“Okay.” He handed me a tablet. “I’ll need Vanessa to sign this.”
I brought the tablet to her and she pressed her thumb on a square. I handed it back to the magistrate. He glanced at the display and said, “Welcome to your new life.”